By: Jordan Kendall, Assistant Sports Editor
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is having an impressive second season. He has led the Ravens to a 7-2 record after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 49-10. He’s considered an MVP candidate with half the season remaining. I don’t think he’s the MVP, but he’s got a strong case and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up winning.
Passing numbers aren’t MVP level
As a quarterback, the most important stats are passing yards and touchdowns. Jackson barely cracks the top 20 in passing yards, which usually prevents a quarterback from entering the MVP race. Players such as Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew are both having better statistical seasons. There are rumors that Winston will not be the Buccaneers starter in 2020, and Minshew was benched for quarterback Nick Foles. Neither of them is close to winning MVP but have been better passers so far.
Despite his lack of passing numbers, Jackson has been one of the best quarterbacks this season. His ESPN QBR is fourth-best with a 76.0. He has not thrown an interception in seven of his first nine games, including the last four. Against New England, Jackson only threw six incompletions, showing progress as a passer, which is a good sign for Ravens fans. I agree with the experts that he needs to improve as a pocket passer and not rely on scrambling to find someone open. But right now it’s working and it is helping Baltimore win games. The unique aspect of Jackson’s game is his playmaking with his legs, which is the reason he is considered an MVP candidate.
Frontrunner for MVP?
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson are both mobile quarterbacks. They can use their legs to buy time to find someone open and have the arm to throw accurate passes. Jackson does this, but he looks more like former NFL quarterback Michael Vick. He’s more willing than Wilson or Watson to scramble and turn upfield, and his elusiveness is as good as most running backs. He’s a unique player and can make a game changing play at any moment.
Jackson’s greatest impact is rushing, and his stats back it up. In his last four games, he has over ten carries. In two of the last three games, he’s rushed for over 115 yards including 152 vs the Cincinnati Bengals. He’s currently 11th in the NFL rushing yards with 637. Jackson has more yards than Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsey and New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell. Lindsey made the Pro Bowl last season and Bell was arguably the best at his position before sitting out last season.
Arguably the most impressive stat is Jackson only has 99 rushes. He is also 12th with five rushing touchdowns. Each of the top 10 rushers has at least 149 carries and are the primary rushers for their team. Running back Mark Ingram is the Ravens primary rusher and has at least 12 carries in every game so far. Jackson is still a quarterback, despite how effective he is as a rusher.
Second year quarterback looking like a veteran
The Ravens have designed quarterback draws for Jackson, including one on fourth down late in their game vs Seattle. Initially, Baltimore was going to kick a field goal, but head coach John Harbaugh trusted Jackson and it resulted in a touchdown. It said a lot for a head coach to trust a second-year quarterback in that situation. Jackson plays and acts more like a 10-year veteran. He’s the face of the Ravens and one of the leaders in the locker room. Baltimore redesigned their offense around him and it’s paying off.
If he can improve his passing numbers and continue to produce on the ground, there’s not much between Jackson and the MVP. The Ravens next three games can help him prove he deserves it. Baltimore faces the Texans, Los Angeles Rams, and the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers currently have the top defense, and if he can beat them that will further his argument.
I believe that Wilson has done the most at this point to deserve MVP, he has 22 touchdowns with one interception. He’s having a career year, and if Seattle makes the playoffs, I believe he will ultimately win. Jackson has impressed me so far, and I look forward to seeing how he progresses in the second half of the season.